Genomes: Not Just for Biology Anymore

This blog has explored many of the applications of Materials Science and Engineering, and it’s just barely scratched the surface of what there is to offer.  Materials are everywhere, and no field could move forward without them. So, as a country which prides itself on its scientific developments and progress, it makes sense that research funding should go toward this field.


One program which serves exactly this purpose is the Materials Genome Initiative.  This agency relies on the fact that, while many new materials are discovered each year, it can take up to 20 years for a material to reach industry.  By creating a searchable database of materials, companies can find what they’re looking for with the click of a button, rather than years of trial and error.


The initiative has seven listed objectives, ranging from national security and clean energy to experimental tools and digital data.  These goals are achieved through interagency cooperation from NASA, the NSF, the DOE, and other government agencies.  Interdisciplinarity has been one of the trademarks of recent scientific development, and it’s promising to see that agencies are acting in a similar manner.  The best discoveries are made when bright minds work together.


While, in recent years, computer simulations have dictated new experiments for materials, the direct way in which the composition of materials affects their properties is still unknown.  A database like this one could help to find the answers.  When applications call for a certain set of properties, it would make material selection simpler if a new material could easily be produced with exactly those specifications.


Perhaps the best part of the Materials Genome Initiative is the potential return on investment.  The program began in 2011, and even in these first few years we can see the progress. As more and more data is computerized, and more properties are reported, the world will get closer to an overarching theory about why materials work the way they do.  The potential of materials science is limitless, and with a database like this, we could see a wealth of amazing discoveries in our lifetime. It’s exciting to consider the possibilities.


Until next time,


Natalie Cummings

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